Goodwill Industries

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Goodwill Industries International Inc.
Goodwill Industries Logo.svg
Founded 1902 (Boston, Massachusetts)
Founder Reverend Edgar J. Helms
53-0196517, 04-2106765
Focus Vocational rehabilitation for disabled persons
Headquarters 15810 Indianola Dr Rockville, Maryland, United States 20855[1]
Area served
Global (17 countries)
Products Retail
Key people
Jim Gibbons (President and CEO)[2]
$3.53 billion (2012)

Goodwill Industries International Inc. is an American nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities. In addition, Goodwill Industries may hire veterans, individuals that lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges. Goodwill is funded by a massive network of retail thrift stores which operate as nonprofits as well. Goodwill's answer to its profit status is "As a unique hybrid called a social enterprise, we defy traditional distinctions. Instead of a single bottom line of profit, we hold ourselves accountable to a triple bottom line of people, planet, and performance."[3]

Goodwill operates as a network of 165 independent, community-based organizations in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, the United States, Canada and 8 other countries. It slowly grew from its founding in 1902 and was first called Goodwill in 1915.[4] In 2014, Goodwill organizations generated a total of $5.37 billion in revenue, 83 percent of which was spent directly on programs. In that time, the group provided 89 million total employment and community services, with more than 26.4 million people served and more than 318,000 people placed into employment. [5]

Goodwill's logo, a stylized letter g, resembles a smiling face. It was designed by Joseph Selame in 1968.[6]

Currently, there are two public faces of Goodwill. Organization expert Lorie Marrero is the face of the Donate Movement, which began in 2010. ABC correspondent Evette Rios partnered with Goodwill in 2012 to help appeal to the Latin American market.[7][8]


A Goodwill in Brooklyn

In 1902, Reverend Edgar J. Helms of Morgan Methodist Chapel in Boston, Massachusetts, started Goodwill as a mission of his ministry.[9] Helms and his congregation collected used household goods and clothing being discarded in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired the unemployed or bereft to mend and repair them. The products were then redistributed to those in need or were given to the needy people who helped to repair them. In 1915, Helms hosted a visit to Morgan Memorial by representatives of a workshop mission in Brooklyn, NY, and they learned about the innovative programs and the operating techniques of the "Morgan Memorial Cooperative Industries and Stores, Inc." Helms was subsequently invited to visit in New York. Out of these exchanges came Brooklyn's willingness to adopt and adapt the Morgan Memorial way of doing things, while Helms was persuaded that Brooklyn's name for its workshop, "Goodwill Industries," was a marked improvement over the Morgan Memorial name. Thus was officially born Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, and that, plus Brooklyn's interest and ties, became the foundation on which Goodwill Industries was to be built as an international movement.[10]

Today Goodwill has become an international nonprofit that takes in more than $4.8 billion in annual revenue and provides more than six million people with job training and community services each year.[11] Helms described Goodwill as an "industrial program as well as a social service enterprise...a provider of employment, training and rehabilitation for people of limited employability, and a source of temporary assistance for individuals whose resources were depleted."


A Goodwill store

In 1999, over 84 million pounds of used goods were donated to the stores in Portland, Oregon, part of the Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (GICW). Around the same year, Goodwill launched the first and only nonprofit internet auction site in the United States. By 2004, Goodwill Industries International had a network of 207 member organizations in the United States, Canada, and 23 other countries.[12] As of July 2011, there are 165 full Goodwill members in the United States and Canada. These are each independent social enterprises that operate their own regional Goodwill retail stores and job training programs. Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Boston, is the enterprise operated in Boston, where Goodwill was founded.[13]

The clothing and household goods donated to Goodwill are sold in more than 2,600 Goodwill retail stores,[11] on its Internet auction site, as well on eBay by a number of its regional stores.[14] Most of the items on are items that are considered most valuable. Each regional store will ship out what they deem valuable, so that the items will be purchased for what they are worth. Antiques, collectibles, jewelry, comic books, furniture, and even automobiles are some of the items found on this website. The revenues fund job training and other services to prepare people for job success. Examples of Goodwill's presence on eBay are Goodwill Industries of Maine, Seattle, San Francisco, and many other locations. Goodwill locations that operate on eBay research donated items for higher profit than could be brought in-store, and instead list those items on eBay for auction. In 2010, through their involvement in Goodwill's programs, more than 170,000 people were placed into employment. They earned $2.7 billion in salaries and wages, and as tax-paying citizens, they contributed to the community.[15] Goodwill also generates income in order to help businesses and the federal government fill gaps caused by labor shortages, time constraints and limited space or equipment. Local Goodwill branches train and employ contract workers to fill outsourced needs for document management, assembly, mailing, custodial work, grounds keeping and more. Goodwill claims that more than 84 percent of its total revenue is used to fund education and career services and other critical community programs.[11] In 2010, Goodwill provided people with training careers in industries such as banking, IT and health care, as well as offering English-language training, education, transportation, and child care services.[15]

When merchandise cannot be sold at a normal Goodwill store, it is taken to a 'Goodwill Outlet' or 'Bargain Store.' Items are mostly sold by weight, with prices ranging from $0.49 to $1.69 per pound, depending on the location. The wide selection and massive discounts on a variety of household goods typically attract a fervent following of regular customers, some of whom make a full-time living buying and re-selling goods. There are also many vendors who buy this merchandise in bulk, and they send the merchandise to third-world countries.

Charity Watch rates the Goodwill Industries an "A".[16]

Castro pop up

In November 2010, for the first time, Goodwill opened a store in San Francisco, California, specifically designed to hire employees who are transgender, gay, or lesbian. The temporary or "Pop-up" store was a unique partnership between Goodwill of San Francisco and Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative. The Castro Pop-up store closed in April 2011, but the staff were transferred to various Goodwill stores throughout San Francisco.[17]

POP! at South by Southwest

Goodwill Industries International and Goodwill Industries of Central Texas (Austin) hosted their first pop-up retail shop, POP!, at South by Southwest in 2013. Goodwill has been around for more than 110 years, but in recent years has revamped its retail strategy to include boutiques, trunk shows and other venues that appeal to a younger audience. During the POP! shop, consumers chose from a selection of unique items, including vintage and contemporary fashions and accessories, and designer labels. Revenues generated from the shop are helping put people to work in Austin. Spokespeople Evette Rios and Lorie Marrero were on hand for the event.[18]

In 2010, Goodwill launched the Donate Movement to demonstrate the value that donated goods have for people and the planet. Goodwill’s vision for the Donate icon is a universal reminder to ‘recycle’ through responsible donation, helping provide opportunities for others while diverting usable items from landfills.[19]

21st-century initiative

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 2002, Goodwill Industries launched an international workforce development initiative designed to integrate 20 million people into the workplace by the year 2020.

Known as the Goodwill Industries 21st Century Initiative, the plan includes broad strategies for getting people into good jobs that enable them to become self-sufficient. These strategies include providing job and technology training for a 21st-century workforce, offering family strengthening services to support workers and their families, and developing business opportunities to employ individuals who were previously considered unemployable.[20]

Women Veterans initiative

As part of the Joining Forces campaign of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, Goodwill has hired nearly 1,800 veterans and military family members and has served nearly 100,000 more with job training and placement services.

In June 2013, Goodwill announced an initiative with the goal of engaging 3,000 women veterans over the next two years with services and support that lead to economic self-sufficiency.[21]

Donation policies

Goodwill donation bin at a Safeway store

Goodwill has various policies on donations, including items that it can and cannot accept. Broadly speaking, Goodwill will accept items that it can re-sell, either in the retail stores or as bulk lots.

Goodwill generally will not accept donations of auto parts, furniture showing signs of damage, large appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, washers/dryers, or exercise equipment. Most stores also cannot accept hazardous materials like paint, medications, or building materials such as doors, wood, nails, etc. For liability reasons, Goodwill generally will not accept baby cribs or car seats. Sanitary regulations prohibit Goodwill from accepting mattress donations, and although some Goodwills do sell brand new mattresses, most Goodwills cannot. Recently, due to safety concerns (in particular, concerns over lead content in painted products), some Goodwill stores will not accept some toys, particularly those made in China.[22]

Goodwill will generally always accept donations of clothing, shoes, books, accessories (handbags, belts), dishes, pieces of furniture in good condition, household decorations, and consumer electronics (e.g.: alarm clocks, blenders, etc.). Even if they are deemed unfit to be sold in Goodwill's retail stores, these items can be sold as bulk lots, and thus can still generate income.

Depending on regional laws, the value of the goods donated can be used as a tax deduction.


Executive compensation

In 2005, Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (GICW), Goodwill's Portland, Oregon, branch, came under scrutiny due to executive compensation that the Oregon attorney general's office concluded was "unreasonable". The President of the Portland branch, Michael Miller, received $838,508 in pay and benefits for fiscal year 2004, which was reportedly out of line in comparison to other charity executives and placed him in the top one percent of American wage earners. After being confronted with the state's findings, Miller agreed to a 24% reduction in pay, and GICW formed a new committee and policy for handling matters of employee compensation.[23][24]

A widely circulated email titled "Think Before You Donate" aims to convince readers that “Goodwill CEO and Owner Mark Curran profits $2.3 million a year", but fact-checking groups have debunked the content of the email: the CEO of Goodwill Industries International is not Mark Curran, nor does he make $2.3 million a year. [25] The current President and CEO of Goodwill is Jim Gibbons, who in 2011 received a total reported compensation of $725,000. [26]


Goodwill Industries International has been criticized by some for using a provision of federal labor law to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, organizations can obtain a "special wage certificate" to pay workers with disabilities a commensurate wage based on performance evaluations.[27] 7,300 of Goodwill's 105,000 employees are paid under the special wage certificate program.[28] The National Federation of the Blind considers it "unfair, discriminatory, and immoral."[29] Other disability rights advocates have defended Goodwill's use of the special wage certificate to employ workers with disabilities. Terry Farmer, CEO of ACCSES, a trade group that calls itself the "voice of disability service providers," said scrapping the provision could "force [disabled workers] to stay at home," enter rehabilitation, "or otherwise engage in unproductive and unsatisfactory activities." [30] Goodwill believes that the policy is "a tool to create employment for people with disabilities" who would not otherwise be employed.[31] Goodwill notes that "Eliminating it would remove an important tool for employers and an employment option available to people with severe disabilities and their families. Without the law, many people with disabilities could lose their jobs." [32] Goodwill has urged Congress to "support legislation that would strengthen the FLSA and increase its enforcement," and to "preserve opportunities for people with disabilities who would otherwise lose the chance to realize the many tangible and intangible benefits of work." [33] A 2013 FLSA fact sheet from Goodwill states that "Without FLSA Section 14(c), many more people with severe disabilities would experience difficulty in participating in the workforce. These jobs provide individuals with paychecks that they would be unlikely to receive otherwise, as well as ongoing services and support, job security, and the opportunity for career advancement." [34]

A 2013 article on reported that Goodwill's tax returns showed that more than 100 Goodwills pay less than minimum wage, while simultaneously paying more than $53.7 million in total compensation to top executives.[35] The former CEO, Douglas Barr, of the Goodwill of Southern California was the highest paid Goodwill executive in the country.[36] He received total compensation worth $1,188,733, including a base salary of $350,200, bonuses worth $87,550, retirement benefits of $71,050, and $637,864 in other reportable compensation.[37] "In 2011, the Columbia Willamette Goodwill, one of the largest in the country, says it paid $922,444 in commensurate wages to approximately 250 people with developmental disabilities. These employees worked 159,584 hours for an average hourly wage of $5.78. The lowest paid worker received just $1.40 per hour."[35]


A coalition of smaller charities in California have complained about Goodwill's support for legislation encouraging greater regulation of donation boxes,[38] calling the efforts an “attempt to corner the clothing donation market and make more money.”[39] Local Goodwills have argued that donation boxes divert money from the community and contribute to blight, and have pushed for state legislation that requires owners of a donation box to clearly display information about whether it is a for-profit or nonprofit organization.[38]


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  10. For the Love of People, by John Fulton Lewis.
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  16. Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report, Volume Number 59, December 2011
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